In the world of “smart lighting,” technology and applications are evolving faster than ever before. From bulbs that allow you to remotely control their color, to bulbs that have integrated speakers, we’re seeing an array of new functions and benefits. Some even impressive enough to catch the eye of the New York Times resulting in the January article, “How Pink Is Your Floyd?: The Rise of the Smartbulb.” I believe this is just the start of smart lighting innovation. Increased functionality is rapidly moving from the norm. Just take a walk down the lighting aisle at Lowe’s or Home Depot and you’ll get the idea.
For the most part, buying a lighting product has been easy. A bulb burns out (or you want to make an upgrade), and you simply schedule an installation or buy it yourself. The lighting industry has generally revolved around the very simple need of getting the lights back on and operational. However, the relative simplicity of this model is about to change. “Smart lighting” and controls (which go hand-in-hand) are now enabling completely new business models.
Smart Lighting for Healthcare
Many lighting professionals are exploring the value that smart lighting can bring to the healthcare industry. Companies like Ann Arbor-based Arborlight provide solutions (daylight simulation in medical facilities, in their case) that could ultimately help improve circadian rhythms, patient recovery time, and the overall health of both patients and staff.
Likewise, as sensor and circuit board innovation continues to grow, we may even see light bulbs capable of monitoring a patient’s heartbeat or movement – new functionality that will offer tremendous benefits to both the patient and hospital operations. If you’re the CFO or COO of a hospital, you’re going to think seriously about taking advantage of solutions that claim to improve patient health, recovery time, and your operations.
Smart Lighting for Retail
Companies such as ByteLight are working on new concepts that leverage the assets of smart lighting and the Internet of Things (IoT) (the network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to help them interact with each other) to help retailers drive sales. Their system utilizes LED integrated indoor positioning services to gauge where a customer is in a store, and communicates with the appropriate lights to highlight products on a shelf. Similar to the hospital example, this sell is about leveraging the power of smart lighting to drive increased revenue and improve the customer’s experience.
Smart Lighting for Parking
How about parking infrastructure? Holland, MI based TwistHDM’s limelight™ product leverages the power of IoT through its high-density mesh network to deliver remarkable lighting control. Here’s the deal though, the limelight™ product not only controls light fixtures, but also presents a new world of possibilities for the operation and maintenance of parking structures. No more searching to see if fixtures are out. Instead, the limelight™ system can automatically alert a maintenance professional if a fixture is malfunctioning or if vandalism has occurred. As a result, there are significant safety and operations improvements as the technology provides well-lit, thoroughly maintained facilities. And, aside from energy savings, the possibility of innovators adding even more functionality for parking infrastructure is well within reach. All of those circuit boards and sensors could help solve other parking related problems. Have you ever driven around aimlessly searching for a parking spot? With smart lighting technology this could be a thing of the past. New innovative solutions can save precious time, reduce frustration, and eliminate associated idling emissions.
The Big Question
There’s no doubt that the technology is coming, but who will sell the combination of new IoT services and LED products? Who will have the greater value proposition? Will it be companies such as ByteLight or will it be the traditional lighting manufacturers (sales network and contractor base)? I’m not sure – but given the level of innovation in the market, I’m fairly confident that we’re going to see new entrants, joint ventures, mergers, and overall disruption of how products and services penetrate the market. However this new business model unfolds, the exciting part is that smart lighting will bring greater (and new) value for everyone involved.